2.8.2012 More Birds and Bees

I visited my beehives yesterday.  The good news is I still have live bees in my two remaining hives. I have pollen and freshly capped honey in both hives.  (In February, go figure.)  The pollen was pretty, too.  Red, green and yellow.  The bad news is one of my queens, although present, is not working.  I saw her, off near the edge of the super, all by herself.  Queens normally travel the hive with attendants and they stay where the action is. There’s no action on the outer frames. They are empty and the queen’s a total slacker.  No brood anywhere.  Eventually, the bees in that hive will die and there will be none to replace them.  And there aren’t that many bees in there.

In the other hive, though I couldn’t find her majesty, she was there and she had been working.  I had brood on three frames, not a lot of brood, but some.  Not a lot of bees either.  What I probably should have done was kill my welfare queen and combined the two hives.  What I did do was take a frame of brood from the hive that had brood and gave it to the hive that didn’t.  But I just realized that in order for them to raise a new queen, they needed to be queenless.  I should have killed her when I saw her.  Guess I’m going back in there tomorrow.  But I probably should consult a more experienced beekeeper, because I’m not very good at beekeeping.

I am getting better at salvaging sick chickens though.  #37, the Dorking that came down with tremors last week, is finally on the mend.  I have discovered a hen’s will to live is largely dictated by her appearance.  When she’s so weak, she’ll sit in her own poo, she wants to die.  Give her a warm bath and a blow dry and she feels pretty and witty . . . not gay yet, but we’re getting there.  We had her in the house for a few days, well almost a week, (which annoyed just about everyone: sick chicken = big stink) but I wanted her to spend her energy getting better not trying to stay warm.  Tonight, however, she’s down in the white room.  Not as cold as the coop and away from the humans who are starting to exhibit signs of . . . something.  Probably just allergies to chicken dander.  If it’s more than that, well, I know where the bananas hang out.

Down in the coop, one of my Sussex girls went broody yesterday.  She dutifully sat the golf balls I gave her today and ferociously guarded them from me and any other chicken that dared come near them.  So this evening I went commando and moved her into an empty chicken tractor with a deep layer of hay bedding and the 10 eggs I’ve gotten from my breeding hens in the last three days.  She’s setting 4 Dorking and 6 Sussex eggs and the due date is February 29th.

In the breeding tractors, I have discovered a couple of flaws in my plans.  One: the Sussex tractor is sitting on a damp spot and when it gets cold, my big boy gets frostbitten.  So I had to move my breeders to a drier location.  Two: when I moved my breeding hens out of the coop, I also moved them away from the light that comes on at 4 o’clock in the morning.  Less light means fewer eggs.  If those hens don’t lay, it’s gonna be tough to raise the next generation.  Solution: put lights on timers in the chicken tractors.  It just never ends . . .

I did discover something cool this evening.  I have 7 boxes of eggs in my fridge.  They are 18 packs and they are the small eggs I can’t sell.  We eat some.  The dog gets some.  Chickens and ducks who are sick or are growing feathers get some.  But I’ve got a back log.  A really big back log.  I hard boiled 18 this evening thinking they’d be easy to peel because they are two weeks old.  Nah.  There was absolutely no air sack in those eggs.  Two weeks old and I could have hatched them out, they were in that good of condition.  That sort of makes me wonder: just how old are the eggs you get at the grocery store? . . .

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